In his finest performance since facing the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Corey Crawford stood strong throughout a physical hockey game and earned a hard-fought overtime victory.
In a game filled with the bad blood that has become part of the Blackhawks-Canucks rivalry, the two teams racked up 54 penalty minutes in the first two periods.
For Chicago, Marcus Kruger did not return to the game after the first period; he was part of a nasty collision into the Canucks’ net late in the first period. The Canucks were without Daniel Sedin after he received an elbow from Duncan Keith. Keith and Alex Burrows were both hit with 14 penalty minutes in the middle of the second period, taking two more key players off the ice for a significant amount of time.
Brent Seabrook may have been as visibly emotional on the ice as he’s ever been with the Blackhawks while continuing to defend teammates from late/cheap shots from the Canucks. At one point in the second period, he threw his own helmet in frustration while “discussing things” with a couple of Canucks.
To Seabrook’s credit, in spite of the abuse he took in the game, he did not personally take any penalties in the game. Indeed, after the Blackhawks were called for three penalties in the first period, the only Keith’s subsequent penalties in the second period were called on Chicago.
On the other end of the ice, the Canucks continued to take cheap shots and they found themselves in the box throughout the second period. Henrik Sedin took two minor penalties inside of three minutes and Kevin Bieksa served two minutes for slashing.
While the Blackhawks power play continued to frustrate, the penalty killing in Chicago has become red-hot. The Hawks haven’t allowed a power play goal in seven games, killing all 11 penalties over that stretch. In March, the Hawks have successfully killed 17 of 18 penalties.
When Johnny Oduya’s wide shot bounced off Andrew Shaw and into the back of the net for an incredible overtime game-winner, it was Crawford that had truly earned the victory.
After allowing a soft goal less than 30 seconds into the game, Crawford stood on his head for the next 62 minutes. He made 23 saves in the game, but was hit at least three times (including one interference call) and had constant traffic in the crease. The Blackhawks also struggled with their clearing attempts on all three penalty kills in the first period, but Crawford refused to allow a second goal.
Since replacing Ray Emery against St. Louis, Crawford has allowed five goals in four-plus games. He has kept 84 of 89 shots out of the net in the last four games (.944 save percentage) and has shown confidence in the last week that was nowhere to be found as little as three weeks ago. His return to form has been exceptional.
Patrick Kane scored his 20th goal of the season for the Hawks’ only regulation tally. Shaw’s game-winner was his fourth goal in the last three games and his fifth of the month, giving him 11 on the season. Shaw now has a four-game point streak.
When the dust settled, the Blackhawks had won their fifth straight game. With 92 points in 75 games, the Hawks have as many points as the Nashville Predators (who have two games in-hand) and one fewer than the Detroit Red Wings, who lost in overtime to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night but have one game in-hand.